By Sufuyan Ojeifo
Political extremism was an outrageous flaunt by the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the 2015 general elections: to win at all costs. It was accompanied by virulent propaganda never seen in the history of electioneering in Nigeria, which was, overall, sustained by a bare threat to destabilise the polity. The APC put aside all decorum and threatened to form a parallel government if the outcome of the presidential election did not favour them. Some political analysts had, at that point, rightly dubbed the APC as an amalgamation of political extremists and desperate politicians whose common purpose was to hijack power by force of threat.
But before that assertion is faulted, I invite you to also take a critical look at political events in Edo State ahead of the September 10, 2016 governorship election. There is no doubt that the fortune of the APC in Edo has plummeted, and since there is no likely quick fix in sight, its main political actors have resorted to threats. They want to unleash Armageddon on a State that is already gripped by hunger. By allegedly planning to rig the forthcoming election, the APC government is preparing the ground for anarchism.
The fear of possible mayhem is real. The fear is strengthened by a bizarre development in Edo, which has further fuelled suspicions that the APC is committed to perpetrate electoral fraud. The development is called hunt for thugs (similar to the talent hunt show), and it is basically fashioned out to assemble the most daring of the area boys in town ahead of the governorship poll. Today, thuggery is considered as, perhaps, the highest paying job in the State, with a lucrative recruitment scheme such that if you can stake the unexpected as an area boy, just expect a call from Oga at the top to be enlisted for the task ahead. It is that bad!
At the center of this despicable political gambit is a certain Brother Adams, demonstrating a do or die attitude in his conduct at rallies in a desperate bid to impose a “puppet-candidate” on Edo State. He has thrown caution to the winds in his extreme disposition to enforce his third-term by other means. He has threatened that a particular candidate will only be governor over his dead body. But unfortunately for Brother Adams, the people do not want him dead yet. Even though they have made up their minds to vote out the APC, they want Brother Adams to be alive to witness the consequences of his action of betraying their trust.
Though there is an increased consciousness on the part of the people to frustrate any plan to manipulate the election, it is however necessary for the law enforcement agencies to be on the guard as impartial security outfits working to keep and ensure the peace and stability of the State. The mood in Edo is now that of a people ready to defend their mandate and protect their state against any internal or external forces of destabilisation.
There is, however, a major concern, the kind that was witnessed during the 2015 general elections when an accreditation-technology of card reader was introduced and used against the provision of the Electoral Act and the common sense of testing it at smaller elections before a large scale application. Aside the fact that the innovation was an unmitigated disaster during the general elections, the Supreme Court has since ruled on its applicability and asked the electoral body to appropriately include it in the Electoral Act if it so desired.
But it appears the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is again up to something else in the forthcoming Edo and Ondo States governorship elections with yet another introduction of an electronic platform for collation of results. This has not been captured by any law or guaranteed by the Electoral Act. It is called e-collation and e-transmission of results.
Already, some political stakeholders have started raising serious suspicions on the integrity, applicability and acceptability of the e-collation platform. They are wondering why INEC is going ahead with an innovation that has not been captured in the Electoral Act and which efficacy has not been tested in smaller elections and reruns. They are worried that there is a likelihood of conspiracy somewhere, as witnessed during the last general elections when, after ignoring all pre-election concerns, the INEC later made a u-turn in the middle of the game and announced that card reader might be jettisoned where it did not work. This unwholesome development, according to some political pundits, significantly accounted for why the APC won the Presidential Election as most States in the North never substantially utilised the card readers.
There is also an informed fear that the e-collation, as planned by the INEC, may be manipulated to produce imaginary figures. The INEC must sincerely address this concern to show that it is indeed an unbiased umpire. However, it is incumbent on the opposition parties in Edo, beyond the expression of worry, to take further steps by seeking pronouncement of the court on the applicability and acceptability of this e-collation platform. They must also make a strong case that it is illogical for the INEC to again test an innovation, which is not circumscribed in the Electoral Act, in a major election when it had the opportunity to test it in several reruns and bye-elections but failed to do so.
Moreover, since the INEC, till date, has refused to release the card readers’ data on the 2015 general elections because of the fear that the information will alarm Nigerians and the international community, the Commission therefore has no moral authority to introduce another technology without first perfecting the previous one. Such action should include getting the National Assembly to amend the Electoral Act to accommodate the e-collation platform. The truth is, there is more to it than meet the eyes in the sense of urgency by the INEC to have the e-collation platform tested in Edo and Ondo elections. Besides, the INEC has not shown itself to be above board especially with the gale of inconclusive pattern that has characterised elections conducted by it in the last one year.
My fear is that the plot to rig the election by Brother Adams and his cronies, as well as the introduction of the e-collation platform, could unsettle Edo State.
This is because the people are now ready to take their collective destiny in their hands. They have become so enlightened that they have gone past the eras when an individual would lord it over them. If it is admitted that God used Brother Adams to stop the influence of godfathers in the politics of the State, then it would be an aberration for him to transform into a godfather who has single-handed imposed a gubernatorial candidate and deputy gubernatorial candidate on his party men and women.
If Brother Adams succeeds in installing his chosen candidates on the State, he will become the new face of the ultimate godfather in the State, whose perceived misdeeds in office will be overlooked by his cronies. Edo people know this.
This is why any attempt to rig with a view to frustrate the emergence of their will and the crystallization of their mandate will certainly be vehemently resisted.
There is ample time to prevent Brother Adams or any other person for that matter from setting Edo on fire in a desperate bid to have his way. Edo is our collective heritage, not anybody’s private estate; we have to salvage it from all manner of political shenanigans in the interest of our generation and future ones.
● Mr Ojeifo sent this piece via [email protected]